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Daytona looking bleak for Ford teams
Ford teams have been conspicuously absent from all the Speedweeks hoopla so far. Maybe they’re sandbagging, not showing all they have, but so far it doesn’t look as though Ford is bringing much to the Daytona 500 table.

Two weeks ago, Ford racing bosses said they were looking ahead to Sprint Cup races in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and Matt Kenseth and the other Jack Roush drivers may, indeed, do well there. Kenseth is a good pick at California Speedway for sure. But the Daytona 500 is the biggest race of the season, and Chevrolet teams have won 15 of the past 19. And the past few days, the show here has been Chevrolet vs. Toyota, or more precisely, Rick Hendrick’s Chevrolets vs. the Joe Gibbs and Michael Waltrip Toyotas.

Has Ford simply given up on this year’s Daytona? In Saturday night’s Bud Shootout, Carl Edwards had the best-finishing Ford, and he was 12th. In fact, Edwards had the only Ford running at the finish. And in Sunday’s pole qualifying, Edwards was stunningly slow.

“I was looking to put it on the pole, but I guess we’re going to need a bigger pole,” he said after posting only the 36th-fastest lap. But it’s really about the race setup for next Sunday. We’d like to be faster, but I’m ready to go racing.”

David Gilliland, the Yates driver who was on the 500 pole here last year, crashed out of the Shootout, and so did Ford drivers Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray and Bill Elliott. Travis Kvapil, Gilliland’s new teammate, had the fastest Ford Sunday, finishing seventh. Kvapil and Yates are still looking for a full-time sponsor for that team, and they need to show something here.

Boris Said, a part-timer who must make the 500 field on speed, had the fastest Roush car, ninth. Said is one of the Roush benchmarks here in terms of speed - he won the July 4 pole in 2006, and finished fourth in that race. “Doug Yates has done a great job with the motors,” Said said. “And that’s all we can expect, with how fast the Toyotas are. There’s no competing with them right now.”

Kenseth, who didn’t win a pole last year and had to sit out the Shootout, said he’s just “real happy” to be in the top 15 in speed here. His view of the Shootout: “That most of our cars look pretty slow. We’ve got some work to do to run with those other guys.”

Kvapil and teammate Gilliland, like everyone else here, have all-new cars this season and therefore an early-season shortage. And Yates has moved into new shops, at the Roush compound in Concord. Kvapil wasn’t in the Shootout, so he’ll get his first good look at how his 500 car handles in the draft today, and he’s a bit worried. “I’ve talked to a lot of drivers, and they didn’t have a lot of good things to say about how they drove,” Kvapil said of NASCAR’s new car.

One of the bigger Ford surprises has been Greg Biffle, who finished 2007 so strong and who has been optimistic about what he and crew chief Greg Erwin have for this year. But so far, Biffle has been a nonfactor on the track. He said he feels good about Thursday’s 150-mile qualifiers, though. “The racing is a lot different,” Biffle said.“You would think a bigger car would suck up faster or better (in the draft), and it does to a point. But then it stalls out real fast....
“It slows down instantly. It seems it’s harder to get the pass done. You get that little bit of a run, but the run dies off before you get a chance to do anything." Winston-Salem Journal

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